For me, this intimacy comes by creating my characters from the inside out. I start with their points of pain. We all have them. Past hurts, illnesses, rejections, family histories or accidents that scar us in one way or another--points of pain. These often influence our thought processes and our reactions to internal and external stimuli. They become our "buttons." And what happens when someone pushes our characters' buttons can make for some interesting personal dynamics in our stories.
Storm turned to watch Rachel as she approached. He’d changed into jeans and a white T-shirt; his black Stetson was settled on his head. He handed her the reins. “Rachel, meet Kelsey. She’s a good, gentle mare, but she’s responsive. She’ll keep up with the best of them if you give her a chance.”
She extended an open hand with a sugar cube on it. “Hello, Kelsey. My, aren’t you pretty.”
Storm chuckled. “Flattery and sugar—you know how to get to a horse’s heart.”
“Well, all girls love flattery and sugar. Right, Kelsey?” She patted the mare’s neck, and the horse nickered and nodded. What a mundane remark to make; good goin’, Rachel. Now he probably thinks you’re fishing for compliments. She cut her eyes to Storm and was relieved to see he was busy with his horse. She needed to relax. This was merely going to be a short ride.
“Kelsey’s eyes are unusual, quite beautiful.” She cocked her head to the side and rubbed the horse’s velvety soft nose. “Her eyes have an almost human quality to them. They’re blue. She’s Appaloosa, isn’t she?”
Storm was smoothing a blanket over his mount, a large midnight black stallion with a jagged sliver of white on his forehead. “Yeah, she is. Her breed was almost wiped out by the U.S. Calvary years ago.” He lifted a saddle off a rack and slung it across his mount’s back as if it weighed nothing.
“Why would the Calvary kill off horses?” She glanced at Kelsey and rubbed the horse’s face. “I mean, wouldn’t the Calvary need horses? Seems rather counter-productive. Like, well, like if I, being a nurse, killed off my patients.”
Storm yanked on the cinch. “Yeah, I get your point. You’re right about it not making much sense. From what my dad told me, the Calvary chased the Nez Perce Indians into the Bear Paw Mountains up in Montana and then slaughtered many of their Appaloosas. He was half Nez Perce and half Comanche, my dad was.”
“I thought I detected traces of Native American in you and Sunny.”
“Our cheekbones give us away, don’t they?” He flashed her a smile.
“Yes, that and your dark straight hair and dark eyes. Although you have a fierceness about you. I don’t detect it in Sunny, maybe because she’s ill.”
“Sunny is very gentle in her own way. I’m more like my dad. Focused. Determined. Hell bent on havin’ my way. Just like he was. My dad had dreams. Visions. I’ve started having them, too, now that he’s gone. Can be damn disconcerting at times.”
She’d read about this while she was treating a patient in South Carolina with Comanche heritage. The patient was very focused on walking the Red Way, as the Elders called it. As his nurse, she’d needed an understanding of Native American philosophies and traditions to effectively treat the whole person. She’d found their culture fascinating, spiritual and very connected to the earth.
She stepped closer. “Really? You mean you dream things and then they happen?”
Storm reached out and skimmed his knuckles down her cheek. A gentle gesture so in conflict with the fierce expression in his eyes. Her stomach quivered in response and her breathing quickened.
“Yes,” he whispered. He quickly turned his back to her, and she was sure she heard him mutter he’d dreamed her. Surely she misunderstood.
“What about your mother? Was she Native, too?”
He turned to face her again, his facial expression different this time. “No. Irish. Dad went to Ireland to buy a prize stallion. He met our mother while he was there. Didn’t buy the horse, but he brought her home to marry.” He expelled a harsh bark of laughter. “He’d have done better with the horse. The woman broke his heart.”
“Yours, too, I gather.” She reached up and laid a hand over his heart. Touching patients this way was second nature to her, but the charge that went through her system just now was unexpected. She meant to pull away, but Storm’s callused hand covered hers as if he didn’t want to break the connection.
He stared into her eyes for a long time. She tried to gauge his stern expression, imagining she saw pain and dejection there. This man was hurting; she responded to that, healer that she was. “You have a way of touching a person’s soul, Nurse Rachel. I’m not sure if I like that.”
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